The Mercury News Weekend

PG&E bills to rise amid electricit­y upgrades

Electric rates are going up in January, but gas bills will drop

- By George Avalos gavalos@bayareanew­sgroup.com

PG& E customers can expect an increase in their monthly bills during January, partly to help finance wide-ranging upgrades to PG& E’s electricit­y system, according to the utility.

Bills for the typical customer who receives both electricit­y and gas services from the utility are rising by an average of $5.15 a month, effective Jan. 1, the company said.

PG& E noted that the revenue from the increase isn’t being used to bankroll an array of financial obligation­s incurred by the utility as a result of the conclusion of its bankruptcy filing.

Electricit­y bills are rising an average of $6.13 a month for the typical customer, while gas bills for the typical ratepayer will decrease 98 cents a month, according to estimates provided to this news organizati­on by PG& E.

The changes mean the monthly PG& E bill for combined electricit­y and gas service will be an average of $186.67 starting in January compared with the October average of $181.52 a month, according to the utility.

The monthly PG& E bill for electricit­y services will average $133.84 a month, up from the October level of $127.71, PG& E said. Gas bills will average $ 52.83 a month starting

in January, down from $53.81 in October, PG& E estimated.

“The electricit­y revenue is being used for past, present , a nd pla nned s a fe ty work , i nc lud - ing wildfire mitigation and hardening the electric system,” said Lynsey Paulo, a spokespers­on for PG& E. “We are trying to reduce the chance of catastroph­ic wildfires.”

Revenue from monthly gas bills is being used to maintain and operate the company’s gas infrastruc­ture, including its natural gas storage facilities and pipelines. The money is also being used for mandated programs, including low-income customer discounts and energy efficiency programs.

PG& E hopes to generate additional savings from multiple real estate transactio­ns connected to the company’s decision to relocate its headquarte­rs from San Francisco to an office tower in downtown Oakland on the shores of Lake Merritt. Oakland’s real estate costs are considerab­ly lower than the expense of renting, owning, and buying commercial properties in San Francisco, realty experts believe.

“We’re working to reduce overall customer costs, by identifyin­g an estimated average savings of $1 billion per year in operationa­l costsav ings through 2025 through various initiative­s,” PG& E stated.

T hose initiative­s include the headquarte­rs relocation and the sale of several office properties in San Francisco that PG& E now owns, including its headquarte­rs complex on Beale Street. Plus, PG& E is attempting to sell at least some power- generating facilities such as a hydroelect­ric plant along Bass Lake in Madera County.

PG& E emphasized that the change in monthly bills will be specifical­ly focused on electricit­y and gas system improvemen­ts and won’t be diverted to help the company meet bank r uptc y- linked expenses.

“W hile the rate changes will fund important safety investment­s, the rates will not fund claims or set tlements from PG& E’s Chapter 11 case,” the company said.

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